Gilas Pilipinas have been drawn together in Group B for FIBA Basketball World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas has been drawn with former world basketball champion Argentina in what coach Chot Reyes described as “tough” bracket that also includes European powerhouse Greece, perennial Latin America contender Puerto Rico, unpredictable Croatia from Eastern Europe and Africa’s Senegal.

All six teams have been drawn together in Group B following Tuesday’s FIBA Basketball World Cup draw and already the prognosis is for a Philippine team to enjoy the tournament and “cherish the experience.”

“First of all, we really cherish this experience. This is our first time in 40 years,” Reyes said in an interview posted by FIBA on YouTube.

“We are very proud to have been drawn in the group with Argentina, and some really great superpowers like Croatia,” said Reyes, who witnessed the draw with Gilas team manager Aboy Castro.

The World Cup is set Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 in Spain.

Group B games will be held in the city of Seville where Reyes hopes the team will draw inspiration from what he said would be a big Filipino community there.

“We like the fact also that we’re playing in the city of Seville, because we know that we have quite a big Filipino population in Seville. We expect a lot of our countrymen to come out to the games to watch live, apart from the people from the Philippines who are going to fly over here in Spain,” added Reyes.

But other than that, Gilas will be facing five teams ranked among the best in the world and champions in their respective regions.

The top four teams will advance to the knockout round of 16.

This means that for the Philippines to move forward, it will have to win at least two games.

Experts believe it would almost be impossible to beat Argentina, Greece, Croatia and Puerto Rico, a team which has two NBA players. But Gilas may have a chance against Senegal and then hope to find the lucky punch against the other four teams.

“It is a tough group,” Reyes said.

“But like I said, we relish it, we are going to prepare, we are going to prepare very, very hard. For a team like the Philippines, there is really no easy group for us in a competition like this. Everything is really going to be hard.

“In my mind I had mentally prepared psychologically already to be up against very, very, very tough competition. The goal of the Philippines is to make it to the round-of-16. We would love, absolutely love to get to the second round.

“To do that… I think we need to win two games. That will give us a chance to progress into the final 16. That would be a huge, huge victory not only for our team but for the Filipino nation.”

Argentina’s team includes Indiana Pacers’ Luis Scola and perhaps San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. It finished fifth during the World Cup in 2010 in Turkey. It also won the gold in this event back in 1950 and was an Olympic champion in 2004, a bronze medalist in 2008 and was a semifinalist during the London Games in 2012.

Croatia won a bronze medal in this event in 1994 while Puerto Rico has NBA players JJ Barea and Carlos Arroyo, and onetime PBA import Renaldo Balkman. Greece won a silver medal in the World Cup in 2006.

Spain, the world champion in 2006, is in Group A, with FIBA Eurobasket titlist France, Asian champion Iran, FIBA Africa second placer Egypt, former champion Serbia and wild card entry Brazil. It’s been dubbed as the tournament’s “Group of Death.”

Defending champion USA is in Group C with the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Ukraine, Turkey and Finland, while in Group D are FIBA Africa champion Angola, FIBA Oceania winner Australia, FIBA Americas top team Mexico, Eurobasket’s second-best squad Lithuania, Slovenia and Korea.

The tournament format will have each national team play a total of five preliminary matches from their respective groups, and the top four squads from A-B-C-D will all advance to the knockout stage round-of-16.

The other preliminary venues for the World Cup will have Granada (Palacio Municipal de Deportes de Granada) Bilbao (Bizkaia Arena) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria Arena), while Madrid (Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid) and Barcelona (Palau Sant Jordi) will serve as the main venues for all the important games.

Reyes said the team’s group is tough, with Argentina – led by the Indiana Pacers’ Luis Scola – as the team to beat since it finished fifth overall during the World Cup in 2010 in Turkey. It also won the gold in this event back in 1950 and was an Olympic champion in 2004, a bronze in 2008 and was a semifinalist during the London Games in 2012.

Croatia is also a solid contender, winning a bronze medal in this event in 1994, as well as Puerto Rico with NBA players JJ Barea and Carlos Arroyo, and onetime PBA import Renaldo Balkman. Greece is also expected to contend as it won a silver medal in the World Cup in 2006.

Gilas Pilipinas Schedule
(Palacio Municipal de Deportes
San Pablo, Seville)
Group B
Aug. 30 – vs. Croatia
Aug. 31 – vs. Greece
Sept. 1 – vs. Argentina
Sept. 3 – vs. Puerto Rico
Sept. 4 – vs. Senegal

via http://www.mb.com.ph/  / photo credit to the owner

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